Spain to KongKong

(18 Posts)
AliveSheCried Thu 19-Apr-12 21:50:10

My DH and I have been living in Spain for four years. We are bored. Need more adventure!! Having a baby has probably been part of it, but we do find Madrid incredibly
1. HOT in the summer - intense, dry, skinwreckingly bad
2. unfriendly and often socially competitive (amongst the Brits) IN MY EXPERIENCE. Not my thing.
3. Like any other European City

DH boss comes along and starts yakking about a move to HK. Im well up for it, husband more reluctant.
1. We would not get big fancy package . what would be a decent salary in the UK but rent would be our problem. Given the tax difference etc, then would we basically have similar standard of living but smaller house? How does it compare with UK?
2. Worried about the climate - really how uncomfortable is it? Honestly, how bad? Bad enough to ruin quality of life in the sumer etc? Or just annoying?
3. Do you feel alienated? Its so far from the UK - is that not really difficult?

Id love some honest answers, not so much on the logistics but how you feel. thx

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hackneyzoo Thu 19-Apr-12 22:10:32

I lived in HK for a long time and moved back a few years ago. DH and I were not on expat packages, however he had HK residency as he had lived there for 7+ years. We lived on an outlying island, on our wages, (which were very good compared to what we earn now, doing the same thing, in the UK) we couldn't have afforded to live on HK Island (and we didn't want to). I think it's doable if you live in the New Territories or Outlying Islands (I have lots of friends with kids who are not on big bucks ex pat deals and live on Lamma Island or in Sai Kung). It depends what sort of lifestyle you are after.

The climate was fine, you get used to it after a while and thier is air con everywhere. Its lovely in September/October.

I never felt alienated, I met a wealth of people from all over the world. It was hard to penetrate the local community of HK Chinese without knowing cantonese. You can easily get hold of UK/western food/products.

Its a really interesting place to live, it's a great base for travelling around SE Asia and you don't need to be on big bucks to enjoy it. The public health care is good. There are lots of International Schools/ Kindergardens etc. I have expat friends whose children are doing really well in local primary school too and are fluent in Cantonese, they'll probably end up going to international school for secondary.

We've been back in UK for nearly 4 years so I am probably very out of date on rent prices etc. Feel free to PM me if you want some more info on interesting places to live. This website is ace, and this one might be useful and finally this one

hackneyzoo Thu 19-Apr-12 22:16:47

There's a recent thread about moving to HK full of much more useful info than I've got smile

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Fri 20-Apr-12 01:18:20

I have lived in HK about 2.5 yrs. I've got a 19mo and having another one in August.

Re std of living, it depends on the actual salary, as hard to know what you mean by "decent"(£40k or £100k). If you want to work as well, you can, subject to finding an English speaking job, and childcare is cheap- a FT helper will only cost you c. £500/month (live in). Tax is (for your purposes) 15% flat. Rents are crazy (2x central London + on the island, less elsewhere, but still not cheap), so as you rightly point out, tax and rent have to balance out when you're on a non-expat package. Good websites are Hong Kong Homes, Propgo and Square foot. These will give you an idea of the rents for various areas. Where would your DH be based for work?

As hackneyzoo points out, there is more than one "HK". Whilst the expats are clustered on the island, there are lots that live in the NT or the other islands- be aware though that the "off-island" expat enclaves such as Sai Kung Tung Chung and Clearwater Bay are not that cheap anymore and the cheaper areas tend to be much more local- are you prepared to live somewhere with not that many expats? If you're looking for the more stereotypical expat experience- eg live on HK island, dine and drink in Soho/Central, kids in International school, foreign trips every few months, - you probably won't achieve that on local package, unless your DH is a front-office investment banker/ partner in law firm etc. Therefore, you need to be honest with yourself about what lifestyle you want.

Summers are hot, wet, hair-wreckingly bad grin- they're completely do-able but you need organised indoor activities if you have babies/toddlers IMO or the days will seem very long.

laptopwieldingharpy Fri 20-Apr-12 06:26:03

To Answer your questions:

You need a minimum budget of:
1) housing
HK$40-50,000 for a 2/3 bedroom flat on HK island and that won't be the fanciest part of town but with a mix of expats/locals (i.e.: happy valley, mid levels west towards Kennedy town, Pok Fu lam).
The expaty areas of New territories as mentioned above are now almost on par. Gold coast seems to deliver far better value but no schools there.

2)pre-school
About $6-10,000 a term (3 terms in a year)

3) groceries
hard to quantify your standard basket but in any case, you will be paying through the nose for everything and trust me you will as you won't be feeding your child nor yourself from locally grown produce that has been sitting on the side of the road soaking exhaust fumes.

Pretty much all else (utilities, gas,car, FT help, restaurants, booze....) is manageable and often good value. Private healthcare expenses (particularly dental) are tear inducing but public healthcare is of a very good standard and language is seldom a problem.

So take into account taxes and do your math. You too have the right to work and it is much easier for a SAHM to get back on the saddle here with the FT help available.
Even if you won't be living the life of Riley, these parts have so much to offer in terms of personal/professional experience and so far totally oblivious to the doom and gloom of Europe. There ARE opportunities for non cantonese speakers if you want and must work.

The weather is actually great here (compared say to Singapore). 4 seasons:
spring is short and often wet/misty with temps in the low 20ies
Summer is hot and sunny with temps in high 20is and typhoons hitting mid-august to mid-september (nothing really scary though. Typically 2-3 days of stormy weather with gathering up pace for 24h or so then it fizzles away and the glorious sun is back)
Autumn is just glorious September/october feels like being around the mediteranean.
Winter is end nov to end march. Mostly beautiful sunny crisp around 1-15 degrees and some spells of damp weather.

The site on which this city is built is breathtaking and there are fantastic outdoor activities.
There are endless enrichment activities, playgroups etc...and you won't feel alienated at all.
I found the expat community here very diverse, welcoming and down to earth even in "higher circles". Not at all cliquey like in singapore for instance, where people often behave like its one long picnic in the Raj.

Hope it helps

AliveSheCried Fri 20-Apr-12 07:10:08

By decent, I mean 90ish, but have no idea about the rent. My dh would be based at admiralty. I'm prepared to live further out as my son is young enough to go to any nursery and being able to speak Cantonese at 3 would be amazing. We are not very materialistic nut love to travel and eat out so not bothered about doing the big city dinner thing, I guess we are old hippies at heart. I like lamma or Lantau

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AliveSheCried Fri 20-Apr-12 07:19:17

However given the rents it might be better to stay in Spain where the big tax kicks in at something ridiculous like 40k, as I just resent paying over the odds for crap housing (inevitably it will be) when there are tenants trashing my palatial home back in the uk. I find the whole renting other peoples pikea nonsense quite soul destroying really!!!!

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AliveSheCried Fri 20-Apr-12 07:21:14

And that's the problem, feel like we ought to settle down, and hate the fact that we have never bought a stick of furniture together. Does anybody se get like this or do you all ship everything around with you?

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RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Fri 20-Apr-12 07:49:40

We did ship a lot of stuff from Dubai to HK (came to Dubai with suitcases as had been living in furnished rented in London and got urge to nest). i ended up advertising it all for free pick up as didnt fit in a HK apartment, so now I have learnt my lesson and am Ikea all the way (second-hand if I can find it!). I dont really care that much about interiors though- prob a good job with a toddler and 2 semi-feral cats and HK Landlord's taste in bathrooms. Sometimes i have a longing for a 4 bed victorian terrace in Wandsworth, but then I remember 50% tax, Transport for London and the recession and get over it.

90k gives you c.HK$75k per month which is do-able but tbh, you'd probably have a higher standard of living in most parts of the UK than in HK on that income.

Lamma and Lantau definitely commutable to Admiralty (ferry then one stop on the mtr). Lamma cheaper and if you're a hippy you'll love it! There are no cars and it's super-low key/ rural with good, cheap seafood restaurants. Only prob is that the only way on and off is the ferry.

laptopwieldingharpy Fri 20-Apr-12 08:38:46

Ship everything. Home is where the job is really, especially in the current climate!

MuffinTumMum Fri 20-Apr-12 09:39:36

What laptop says! That wage is definately doable but in order to be able to live and enjoy hk and the region to the max you could think about cutting back on the rent. I live on Lantau. Love it. Pay 50,000 a month. If we had to I would move to somewhere for 25,000 a month and stay in HK rather than go back to the uk. There are always compromises to be made and I think you can do it in housing in HK. People don't really stay in their flats all day here. I am very happy in my small space. Never want to live jn a house again!
Good luck with decision making!!

AliveSheCried Fri 20-Apr-12 11:52:31

thankyou for comments - could I just ask, is 700sq ft a decent size or would it be like living in a cage? I found this house at sai kung, looks good to me and affordable - http://www.squarefoot.com.hk/property/8602107

just trying to get a decent case together to convince my husband. we both know the job is his if he wants it and he has the choice, spain or HK.

we have no furniture though - so....are there frequent garage and house sales? or any websites i could look at to work out how much it would cost to get us up and running? thanks

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RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Fri 20-Apr-12 11:59:43

700 is not huge but do-able if there are only the 3 of you. One of the issues is that a 700sq ft house is a true 700sq ft, whereas a 700 sq ft apartment is always smaller than that, due to the way that it's calculated, so arguably a 700 sq ft house is the same size as a lot of "1200 sq ft" apartments.

re furniture- there is a "free pick up" section on Asia expat website (plus sales), and a FB page called HK Moms where people are always selling/ giving away furniture. There are also 3 ikeas.

AliveSheCried Fri 20-Apr-12 12:02:29

lovely, thank you very much.
informed and braced for the "do we move or not" summit at some point!

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hackneyzoo Fri 20-Apr-12 13:39:37

We lived on Lamma in a 600sq foot flat, with garden and two bedrooms, with our daughter who was a baby/toddler at the time. All our furniture was either from ikea or picked up at the frequent yard/leaving sales. Lots of stuff was given too. On Lamma there are lots of local little shops, but (and I think this is a good thing) no supermarket. Lots of farmers with small free holdings, so lots of fresh vegetables straight from the island and lots of nice, cheap restaurants and bars, with food from all over the planet...thai, japanese, indian, chinese... There is a kindergarten on the island, I think it's catholic, but its not big bucks to send your child there. When I was there there was also an ENglish speaking kinder garden and play group and tons of other mums with young kids to hang about with.
Our rent four years ago was $6000HK per month, rented from a lovely local lady who we met from asking around on Lamma. There are lots of flats advertised locally or on lamma.com. My husband taught at HK Uni and I was a teacher at an ESF school and we would bring in about 50-60000HK per month if we were both working....for us this was way more than enough to live off comfortably! Our main expenses were saving up for holidays around Asia.
Our daughter had a great start in life there and I met some really lovely and interesting people. We had to return for family reasons, but would definitely head out there again when circumstance allow.

laptopwieldingharpy Sat 21-Apr-12 05:18:07

There a warehouse called second chance and they stock very good quality 2nd hand furniture, often almost new
here

RichManPoorManBeggarmanThief Sat 21-Apr-12 05:47:38

That's who I sold all my Dubai furniture to :-) Very nice people.

AliveSheCried Sat 21-Apr-12 06:57:08

Thanks, I've kind of persuaded him now basically we hate Madrid and as we just can't get jobs back he we might as well travel as we can't do it once hes at school,...

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